You know one of those perfect summer nights when the sky is a delicate shade of blue, crickets sing and you just happen to wear your favourite sundress? It was during one of those nights that Anna and I met Miss Sabrina Robinson. With that name, you would expect someone out of an Audrey Hepburn movie and you wouldn’t be wrong. Sabby was our sommelier during a magical wine tasting event at one of our favourite locations in Cardiff, Insole Court, organised by none other than Cardiff-based independent wine company Secret Cellar. To say that she was impeccable would be a euphemism – Miss Robinson has a way with words which shows both her knowledge and passion when it comes to wine and life. It was like listening to a story, a perfect journey which took us to France, Italy and Spain. So, that night, we learnt, we drank and naturally, we had to become friends. Today, she has been kind enough to talk to The Squiggles Edit about her favourite wines for the Spring season and here’s what she told us.
When did your love story with wine begin?
My love story with wine began in the Summer of 2015, in fact, it had been a crush of mine for some time, thanks to an ex with an incredible cellar, but it became a full-blown love affair after visiting a vineyard on Gozo where I was living at the time. It was a tiny little place at the foot of some rocky hills and the old couple running it was so dedicated to their cause, producing these simple but delightful wines that were just full of personality. Honestly, there is nothing better in the world, in my opinion, than drinking wine with the people who physically made it. Their passion is palpable and their pleasure and pride when they can see that you like it just makes you warm and fuzzy! It’s experiences like these and the ones I’ve had thereafter, that have made me want to replicate them with wine lovers by sourcing and sharing wines from small, family-run producers such as these. I don’t think we as wine drinkers think enough about who made our wines and what their backstory is, it can be fascinating stuff!
What are your go-to wines to take you from Aperitif to lunch?
It’s easy to forget that Spring is upon us thanks to our current situation but the good news is there’s still wine and there’s an abundance of good ones available to order online from your friendly independent wine merchant! I’m an old fashioned gal and aside from a well made Aperol Spritz as an aperitif, I love an Asti Spumante. It’s possibly an 80’s throwback but I’m on a seemingly one-woman mission to bring it back. Modern Asti, although still on the sweet side, is all about fresh peaches and apricots and has a distinct freshness and acidity that perfectly piques the appetite.If you’re going to have a meat-based dish, there are lots of great options available. You’ll need something pretty robust and well structured to stand up to the flavours and textures of meat such as a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon with rich plummy flavours, hints of herbs and spices and high tannins. If you’re opting for a fish course, you can’t go wrong with a Muscadet sur Lie. It’s bone-dry and packed with fresh citrus flavours and thanks to its acidity, is particularly well paired with shellfish but can work equally well with salmon or chicken. I haven’t forgotten you lovely vegetarians! I tend to decide on my wine based on the main ingredient of my vegetarian dish, so for example, a cheese-based dish can pair beautifully with a full-bodied red cherry-bomb such as a Nero D’Avola or can even be challenged by a full-bodied white such as a toasty White Rioja. If you can stomach a dessert wine after all the chocolate we have eaten after Easter, my go-to is a delicious Hungarian number called Tokaji Aszú. It ends a meal beautifully without excessive sweetness and encompasses flavours of brown sugar, honey and oodles of juicy citrus fruits, figs and pears…I asked the Easter bunny for a bottle of this actually.
What are your simple pleasures doing this incredibly challenging and uncertain time?
My dog Mushu has been my saviour throughout the last couple of weeks. He’s always got my back, but lately, we’ve enjoyed a lot more time together and lots of walks and snuggles. He’s still pleased to see me even though we’ve been in each other’s pockets! My daily walk has also been a great comfort. Seeing that nothing can stop nature, the blossom, the birds singing, the sunshine, is really life-affirming! There’s a lot of people I’m missing right now and I’ve been planning some stuff I can do to show them how much I appreciate them when we get the chance to hang out again, some of the appreciation does include wine of course!
What are your top-tips for hosting an at-home Wine Tasting Evening?
My top tip is not to take any of it too seriously! It’s so important to have fun with wine and enjoy yourselves. In the current climate, it’s a great idea to try a Zoom tasting with your nearest and dearest by each picking a bottle of a grape you’ve never heard of and writing your own tasting notes to share. Please note, there is no right or wrong way to write a tasting note, feel free to tell it like it is! If you can taste strawberry laces or Bacon Frazzles (yes that’s a thing) you go for it! Ours turned out to be utterly hilarious and yielded some very interesting tasting notes that I might even nab for the future! Something else you can tag on to the online tasting is a pub-style quiz covering all things alcohol-related – you don’t have to stick to wine though. Decanter.com have a great bank of questions you can dip into. You could even go the extra mile and try wine charades…watching my bestie act out ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ was a sight to behold! I hasten to add that I do not endorse trying this and that it happened post a lot of tasting…
And finally, what are your top aspirations for your business for the next five years?
I’d love to open a little shop with a tasting room attached so that I can do events on-site, I’m thinking modern baroque style with swathes of glorious fabric artfully draped everywhere…I’ll need an interior designer! I’d also really like to branch out into organising trips to the small, family-run vineyards so that I can show people the place where my love story began! Ultimately though I just want more people to enjoy more wines and not be afraid to explore grapes they’ve never heard of. There’s still a degree of snobbery attached to wine and I want to help people feel comfortable with asking questions and trying new things so we can overcome that in a fun and non-judgemental way – there’s no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to wine!
Thank you so much, Sabby!
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